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What is air suspension on a car? Benefits and drawbacks.

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Let’s break down what is air suspension:


Suspension is one of the most critical aspects of any car, it’s what helps the GT3RS take corners so flat through hairpins it’s like the tires are made from glue. A good suspension also what helps stop a Rolls Royce from shaking loose its 3.8 metric tons of sound damping materials every time you run over something as insignificant as a pebble. Though when most people think of a normal suspension setup on a car, they’ll think of the traditional coilover or spring setup. However, in the past decade, we’ve seen cars start shifting more towards air suspension systems, especially your high-end luxury vehicles from the likes of BMW and Audi.
Though what exactly is air suspension?

Well to put to simply it’s literally like your car is riding on a bag of air. In place of the normal spring that you find in most suspension struts.

Air suspension has a sturdy, usually textile-reinforced rubber bag that is inflated to a certain pressure and height, to mimic the behavior of a coil-over setup via an onboard air compressor.

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This is the most simplistic explanation, in reality, it’s an order of magnitude more complex than it actually sounds. With the help of onboard sensors and electronically adjusted controls, it continually alters the setup, either lowering or increasing pressure and ride height to adequately adapt to whatever grueling pothole or cobbled street that the vehicle may find itself on.

There’s a whole host of benefits that come along with opting for an air suspension system in lieu of a traditional set of shocks. As you would imagine, by having a car literally support itself on a soft cushy bag of air, the ride quality is sublime. The difference in road-noise, stiffness and harshness is simply night and day. Furthermore with air suspension, as you rack up the miles, the strain on your traditional suspension components such as ball bearings, and suspension arms are greatly reduced as well.

Air suspension also gives you a degree of customizability that simply isn’t possible with a spring-based setup.

At a push of a button, you can raise and lower your vehicle’s ride height at will. So if it’s a rocky ravine that you forage through, or load grandma in the backseat without too much stress, this system is quite honestly perfect for that. Air suspension is self-levelling as well, so no matter how many road trip non-essentials you have loaded in the back, the suspension will auto level so you won’t scrape the front end at that one nasty roundabout.


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Though it’s not all rainbows and sunshine with an air suspension system. Just ask anyone who owns a 10-15-year-old BMW or Mercedes with air suspension, and it’s only horror stories about incredibly expensive maintenance and ridiculously high failure rates. There are now even specialized coil-over suspension kits available for these old Range Rovers and Mercs that have long had their systems decompose or rust away.
From gas leaks, rotting rubber gaskets, vulnerable air compressor lines, the number of things that are ready to break at a moment’s notice and leave you with a bill more expensive than your mortgage is simply more than the average person is comfortable with.

However, there is still a case to be made for modern-day air suspension systems. Over the past decade, manufacturers have had ample time to iron out the bugs and kinks that have plagued the systems of old. So only time will tell if modern-day air suspension systems are worth it in the long haul, or whether or not we should just stick to the traditional Coilover setup like we’ve always done.

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